Mayank Shekhar's Review: Tere Bin Laden

By Hindustan Times

Director: Abhishek Sharma
Actors: Ali Zafar, Pradhuman Singh
Rating: ***

Karachi has its own version of yuppies, I am told. They call them ‘burgs’ after, I guess, the McDonald’s burgers. These rich young, western in their aspirations and outfit, forever live the American dream, are often scoffed at for their twisted orientation.

The hero here is one such burg. And for a rare Indian film, his story is actually set in Karachi – Mumbai’s seaport equivalent of Pakistan. A stock-shot of the Jinnah International Airport, I suppose, counts for the location’s only real evidence. They do get the lehzaa (local manner of speech) right, I guess.

The boy (Ali Zafar) works for a rundown cable TV station – Danka TV – that beams out of a decrepit building terrace. He could do with a better career in journalism in the US, but can’t afford it.

Literally a random cockfight he’s meant to cover for his channel, he figures, can bring him closer to the cockpit over Karachi. He realises a ‘Kukkad Paadshah’ (Chicken King) whose footage he’s captured on the show -- with some tweaks in voice, dress and makeup -- could pass off for the dreaded Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man on earth.

Osama’s videos fetch great money in the media mart. His own station would be fooled to oblige if they saw a tape of a lookalike making threats against Americans in Arabic. This plan actually turns out to be a success. What follows as what precedes, is truly hilarious.

Tere Bin LadenThe news makes global headlines. Americans under Bush, true to style, launch an Operation Kickass in Afghanistan. Their prime targets remain but the wildlife of the arid region: “Gadhe aur kachhad shaheed ho rahe hain (Donkeys are mules alone are getting martyred!).” The show’s unsuspecting ‘bakra’ himself, the Osama double, a demented poultry farmer (Pradhuman Singh, inspired casting) can make sense of little, besides fear of his own face.

This ingenious, mockumentary style script (Abhishek Sharma) stupendously lets itself go off in all directions on a wild flight of imagination. Only songs seem needlessly borrowed from that Kailash Kher number ‘Chak De Phatte’ (Khosla Ka Ghosla).

Osama as a human specimen should appear beyond limits of creative fiction. Subsequent generations, I suspect, will build a mythology around this caveman who tore off mighty America’s middle fingers, turned global politics upside down, destroyed lives and a trillion dollars, and yet no one could find him. The filmmakers reckon he actually doesn’t exist!

And yet, by the AK47, beneath that white turban and over that salted beard lurks the century’s deadliest story. That a film can so convincingly make light of an unbearable tragedy is its astounding comic achievement. What more low-down do you want: Just go ahead and load up on the guilt-free laughs!

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